Category Archives: Hot Blog Time Machine


1. What did you do this month that you’d never done before?
Couldn’t think of anything I’d done this month? Paid for Instagram followers. Survived winter in Seattle. Began to realize how life is so incredibly divergent in every moment. ANGST! Okay I’ve done that last one before.

2. How are the resolutions coming along?
See for yourself:March 2014 Resolutions

The good thing is that the big red block on the right is just my failing to do German. Recommit! I actually thought of a simpler way to display this info. You can see my success/failure rate for each month, ya know? 2014 Resolutions (So Far)Anyway, March was alright on moderately frequent stuff, but I’ve got work to do on the most and least frequent resolutions (daily and monthly stuff). I need to get settled into my new place and start to re-create routines (which I’m sure will be ruined when I’m in London for 10 days), and then hopefully things will get back on track.

3. How did last month’s resolution go?
Well, the short answer is that I failed. I went to 19 food or drink establishments during the month, well more than the 12 I resolved to. But for the first time in a long time, I was under budget for this category! Small victories!

4. What’s a new resolution for this month?
I have lots!:

5. Who is one person worth recognizing this month?
My next door neighbor A, who has been a God-send during my move. I can’t even begin to thank him enough for helping with different parts of the process, and he’s just doing it out of the goodness of his heart!

6. What would you like to have next month that you lacked this month?
One hundred million dollars! Or, just enough to magically pay off my student loans. Also a new project to work on at work. And some motivation for Valise.

7. What date from this month will remain etched in your memory and why?
March 20, 2014: Got the keys to my new apartment! You should all come visit!

8. What was your biggest achievement this month?
Not being stupid? Moving without stressing out (too much)? Staying positive and having a great final ‘winter’ month with my seasonal depression!

9. And your biggest failure?
Emotions? That sounds bad to say… How about, noticing old cognitive and emotional patterns which die hard, and having to work to overcome them.

10. What did you get really, really excited about this month?
Ikea! And LONDON. (The latter of which sounds an awful lot like June 2011, July 2011, September 2011, January 2012, March 2012, May 2012, June 2012July 2012, August 2012, September 2012,… are you noticing a theme here?)

11. What song will always remind you of this month?
Pseudologica Fantastica by Foster the People. Such an epic anthem.

12. What was the best book your read this month?
Erm, I didn’t read any book. I’m hiding in shame, don’t worry.

13. What was your favorite film this month?
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, an oldie but a goodie!

14. What is a valuable life lesson from this month?
People can’t change, but they can add things which make their less admirable personality features easier to live with.

15. Show the month in

16. What’s next month’s horoscope?
TAURUS – ✭✭✭✭
“It’s like someone lovingly stroking your arm over and over again in the same place until it just becomes fucking annoying. Sometimes the grate is too much, too harsh. Sometimes there seems to be no break in the cycle, just a continuous spinning with the same ebbs and flows. Yes, the day is different but is anything else? I just don’t know. It’s like constant PMS. Sometimes I want to put a million Morning After pills in the cis-male water supply so that they might understand if only for a day or two the kind of tearing to pieces hormones can do to ones psyche.” She was having an off day, but not without reason. All sorts of ghosts had been conjured up and there wasn’t much substantial to hold onto. But this was what was right now; the light had temporarily gone behind the clouds and all she had to rely on was her gut, some tea leaves left in a cup she drank from earlier that morning and the way the birds had decided to fly. The good news was that this kind of raw emotional terrain was honest even in its disproportion. It was honest because it didn’t care how it rendered one, it just came crashing in like a tsunami and left just as fast. These upheavals would roll in and out for the next month, she knew this. She knew that the very end of the month would also bring an eclipse in her sign. So she took a deep breath and let her exhale be what it was from moment to moment. She was glad that her closest ally, Venus, had come to town to support her through this transition. She anchored her torn heart in the loving salve of good friendships, ‘cause she was wise like that.


(Belated) February-in-Review

1. What did you do this month that you’d never done before?
Went to LA(X). Broke my lovely computer! Drove a convertible.

2. How are the resolutions coming along?
Well, all of the ones that I didn’t do well in January were improved this month, but in exchange, I struggled with some of my more frequent ones. Definitely always something to work on! (To be fair, broken computers really cramp my style with some of these…)

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 7.57.25 AM

3. How did last month’s resolution go?
My budgeting program recorded 16 restaurants, of which 4 were bars and 2 were coffee places… so I had less than three per week! (…Not counting my trip to Hawaii, where we ate out 9 times in 5 days…)

4. What’s a new resolution for this month?
Since I again forgot I even resolved this, I now resolve to have less than 3 drink or food purchases from restaurants/bars/etc. per week. Oof, this will be hard! (I’m already at 6, and it’s only the 12th!)

5. Who is one person worth recognizing this month?
M, who went on a great Hawaiian adventure with me! Despite my grumpiness, it was way more fun wit her than I ever could have had alone!

6. What would you like to have next month that you lacked this month?
Less of the broken computer situation. More of the surplus money situation (because I’m not spending it to repair my computer!).

7. What date from this month will remain etched in your memory and why?
February 17, 2014: When I realized I might have to become a nomad for a few years so I can spend a few months living on Hanalei Bay, Kauai, learning to surf.

8. What was your biggest achievement this month?
Staying within my travel budget–in fact, well under it!

9. And your biggest failure?

10. What did you get really, really excited about this month?
Hawaii! It was much overdue–work was pretty hellacious the week before.

11. What song will always remind you of this month?
‘I’m the Man’ by Aloe Blacc

12. What was the best book your read this month?
‘The Age of Ice’ by JM Sidorova. Totally amazing.

13. What was your favorite film this month?
I have three ‘9’ movies from this month: The Wind Rises, Before Midnight, and Nebraska

14. What is a valuable life lesson from this month?
There’s always something money will have to be spent on, so pay the most important things first, otherwise something else will come along for it!

15. What’s next month’s horoscope?
Taurus – In March you are likely to be conscious of conflicting pulls on your time and energy. If you aim to please one person, you may displease someone else. You may have to ask if it is really fair to give preference to the situation that is nagging most noisily, just because a more deserving recipient of your attention is less likely to complain? Whilst it is wonderful to be sensitive to the needs of others, you also need to heed and respect your own deepest feelings. Life will give you the chance to do that. But will you take it? – Cainer


1. What did you do this month that you’d never done before?
Hmmm… That’s a tough one, sadly. I screwed up really, really badly at work. Like, I’ve screwed up in the past, but never this bad. I took a barre method class by myself. Decided to watch as many of the Academy Award nominees as I could find.

2. How are the resolutions coming along?
Let’s see!

Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 12.18.29 AM

Isn’t that cool? I’ve been tracking. So… I missed flossing twice, I watched ‘way too much’ media, I didn’t email anyone last week, I never finished a book or practiced my violin, and I didn’t buy myself any clothes. That’s the bad stuff. I did do my Weigh-in Wednesdays, and took days for myself, and practiced German some every day. I also did pretty well flossing, and emailing, and just need to step up my game with the less frequent ones.

I just have to say, this is going to be way easier to tell if I’m succeeding.

3. How did last month’s resolution go?
My resolution was to cut out eating out to three or fewer times per week. According to my budgeting program, I ate out 13 times in January (not counting Starbucks…….). So, I almost averaged three or fewer times per week. Not good enough. The resolution still stands, especially since I didn’t even remember that I resolved it last month!

4. What’s a new resolution for this month?
See 3. above, please.

5. Who is one person worth recognizing this month?
Mari, who is my closest and longest-lasting friend for a reason. She is there, gets me in ways 99% of the human population don’t and I’m grateful for her in my life.

6. What would you like to have next month that you lacked this month?
Less stress at work. Or, I would like work to be more enjoyable, even if it is stressful.

7. What date from this month will remain etched in your memory and why?
No day stands out. Boo!

8. What was your biggest achievement this month?
Not getting fired.

9. And your biggest failure?
Having a reason to get fired.

10. What did you get really, really excited about this month?
Seeing Benedict Cumberbatch in National Theatre Live: Frankenstein in Portland mid-month.

11. What song will always remind you of this month?
“Crystallized” off of Young the Giant’s new album “Mind over Matter.” It’s sappy and romantic, and I’m totally not feeling that way, but it’s also catchy and a beautiful demonstration of why I love YtG:
When the beat of my drum
Meets the beat of your heart
You know I couldn’t love any other, any other
This is where I come from
This is where I belong,
With the beat of your drum
Not any other.

12. What was the best book your read this month?
I’m in the middle of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but I hope to get caught up on my reading resolution, so check back next month.

13. What was your favorite film this month?
Okay they’re not new movies, but I rewatched The Fellowship of the Ring and Back to the Future, and they’re both fantastic, obviously.. In terms of new movies… The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years a Slave, and Gravity all scored 8s in my book.

14. What is a valuable life lesson from this month?
Double-check your Is, Ts, Qs and whatever the fuck else you put in writing.

15. What’s next month’s horoscope?
From Cainer: You are good at giving advice. You are not always, though, so good at taking it. Generally, that’s an advantage. It stops you from wavering every time some well-meaning individual offers you the dubious benefit of their opinion. There are, though, some people who deserve to be listened to. By and large, they tend to be the folk who are most reluctant to speak! In February you should feel free to refuse to accept what’s being foisted on you but, at the same time, consider who you really should consult – and ask them!


This month, I’m feeling animalish. Here’s to the furry friends who I occasionally snuggle with.

1. What did you do this month that you’d never done before?
Went to Leavenworth, WA. Got the better deal in an airfare price glitch. Surprised my brothers by coming home for Christmas.

a485acea6d8c11e38f3b129a007b000c_82. How are the resolutions coming along?
Yeah, about the same as past months–I did well on the first three.

3. How did last month’s resolution go?
I definitely wrote what I hope are good resolutions for 2014. We’ll see how they go, but I accomplished this resolution!

4. What’s a new resolution for this month?
Cut eating out down to three times per week.

5. Who is one person worth recognizing this month?
M, who is immeasurably more strong than she realizes, and doesn’t hear it often enough.

6. What would you like to have next month that you lacked this month?
Less fat. You all think I’m lying–I would just like a lower fat content on my body. It might help if I stopped eating out and drinking so much! Maybe that should be my January goal….

1e86d56c605b11e3a343120758c0a81e_87. What date from this month will remain etched in your memory and why?
Christmas, when my brother bolted out of bed to hug me hello!

8. What was your biggest achievement this month?
Sticking to a budget for the first time ever! I’m a convert to my new computer program!

9. And your biggest failure?
Being a Negative Valerie too often.

10. What did you get really, really excited about this month?
Tequila! Specifically, twelve tequilas…

11. What song will always remind you of this month?
“Ten Thousand Hours” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

17c6ce866de311e3a03a12d8ffa77685_812. What was the best book your read this month?
Erm… I started “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth” by Col. Chris Hadfield…

13. What was your favorite film this month?
It’s a Wonderful Life, which I watched on Christmas Eve. It was perfect, as always!

14. What is a valuable life lesson from this month?
Discipline is possible, with the right mindset and the right tools.

15. What’s next month’s horoscope?
Taurus: “I am willing to let go of the dogma that has dogged me. I hereby claim my mind open for ideas, philosophies and beliefs that will create a world full of wonder, humor, intelligence, grace and awe. Everyday I have a chance to see the world anew. Others may teach me what they know, but no longer does anyone have the power to dictate how I shall think, I consciously cultivate the ability to use my intellect to free myself from sterilized logic and fear-based nonsense. I know that whatever intelligence created the universe also created my mind and that within this vast and mysterious machine there is the power to both create and destroy life. Therefore, I align my thinking with the greatest organizational creative intelligence in the universe and I allow that kind of brilliance to guide my every thought.”

New Years Resolutions, 2014

Every year, I struggle to find the “right” format for my New Years Resolutions; some years I’m far more successful than others. There hasn’t been any one way of approaching this task–the one of sitting down and committing to give my best effort at a set of behaviors–that allows me to figure out how I can make 2014 the most successful year of resolutions ever. This year, I’m going to try and constrain things by their frequency, that way I only have to concern myself with a few ideas at a time. We’ll see how it goes–there’s no magical introduction to it, just a commitment to try, and report back regularly.

Past years of Resolutions: 2005, 2006a / 2006b, 2007a / 2007b, 2008, 2009, 2010, 20112012, 2013


1. Floss every day
2. Watch no more than one media object (TV/movie)


3. Send one email to a friend off the “26 Friends” list
4. Complete the Weigh-in Wednesday challenge


5. Read one book, of any size
6. Practice the violin


7. Take at least one day of active relaxation, such as going to the spa, movies, or snowboarding
8. Buy myself a necessary piece of clothing


9. Complete the following items on my “50+ Things to Do” list:

  • Successfully prepare a soufflé
  • Watch a Harry Potter 8-movie marathon
  • Learn to fly a float-plane and land on a lake
  • Swim with dolphins and/or stingrays
  • Parasail
  • Learn how to surf

10. Learn to speak German fluently

Without further ado, I am excited to welcome 2014 into my life, and I hope it’s as happy to see me.


This is my sixth year of reviewing the year as a whole at the end of it–I think that the New Year is both a time to look forward with resolve, and a time to look backward in reflection. This is my space for just such a thing–a longer version of my “Month in Review” entries. 2013, as expected, was lively: full of ups and downs and sideways movements, sometimes with other people, and sometimes completely alone. I’d like to think this year was good for me–some important things have changed for the better, and that’s a good way to feel at the end of a year.

Here are previous years: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

Here are the months of 2013 (December forthcoming): January, February, March, April & May, June, July & August, September & October, November, December

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
Finished a year living in London. Visited China (and seven European countries!). Moved to Seattle. Got my first “big kid” job. Tried online dating.

1a. Which things did you complete on your bucket list?
Lived in a flat in London. Celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with the Irish. Stood on the Great Wall of China.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
In 2013, I tried a new form of resolution-setting, and while I think I was for the most part successful, it also wasn’t concrete enough to help me really focus.

2a. “Live Long and Live Well”
I tried to take care of myself, but often I was overwhelmed with other tasks. Now, at the end of the year, I realize that my philosophy of taking care of my eyes and teeth since I only get one set of each of those should also apply to my body. I only get one body, too!

2b. “Do whatever brings you deeper into the reality of your life. Not the life you think you can have, the life you’ve got”
I took lots of pictures and starting writing much more frequently than I ever have before. I started one meditation challenge and finished another. I think I did pretty well at this!

2c. “The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life”
Yes, I got a job that I enjoy (nearly every day!). Yes, I settled into a new life. I also started my own travel magazine, because I was unemployed and unemployable in the work I love. I try and work on that as much as I can.

2d. “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses”
This is the vague one, and I don’t feel like I succeeded at changing my perception very much. I know there are some things that have changed, but not as much as I’d hope for. Next year, more specific!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My friend Josie gave birth to her daughter in late October. I’ve yet to meet the chica, but I hope to very soon!

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Knock wood, no. General health and prosperity in 2013.

5. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
Less debt! More socializing, with friends both near and far.

6. What places did you visit?
The question of the year! Finland (January), Prague (January), Lisbon (February), Ireland (part 2) (March), Barcelona (April), China (May), Berlin (June), Copenhagen (July), Paris (July). Also Seattle (before moving here), Portland, San Francisco, and my parents’ in Colorado.

7. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
June 16, 2013: the day Jeff and I stopped being friends
September 11, 2013: the day I moved away from London
October 2, 2013: the day I started my first real job

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Getting my emotions under control.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Isolating myself when my friendship with Jeff was falling apart; I hurt other people by doing so, when I was just thinking about protecting myself.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Well, a spate of colds, and a migraine that made me want to die. But other than that, generally no.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
The domain for my travel magazine. That was such a great step forward!

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
There are a lot of people: Kerri for her unswerving friendship, Mari for her strength of character, my Mom for her wisdom… there’s a good start on a list of gratitude!

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
I’ve learned by doing these reviews that people generally don’t like to be told they’ve fucked up, they’re uncomfortable with my public ridicule, and they hate feeling the consequences of their shitty behavior. That said, there are people who have sucked this year, and I know who they are, and someday they probably will know too. In the meantime, I don’t like Monsanto, President Obama, and the Gap Corporation.

14. Where did most of your money go?
My Yelp 365 challenge, moving across the country, and rent.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Living in London, even though that ended in September.

16. What song will always remind you of 2013?
“Start Again” by Two Door Cinema Club

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
ii. thinner or fatter? Fatter
iii. richer or poorer? Richer
A good year, then!

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Connecting with people who would be great friends.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Anxious behaviors, isolation, and complaining.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
At my parents’ in Colorado. I flew in late on Christmas eve, and surprised my brothers.

21. What would cheer you up today?
Not having to go to work!

22. Did you fall in love in 2013?
Nope. Perfectly content with that, too.

23. How many one-night stands?
One, and it was life-changing. I decided to go to therapy because of it. Gosh, that makes it sound like it was really important–it just taught me something really important about myself.

24. What was your favorite TV program?
Doctor Who… but only the 10th doctor.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
There are people I get along with less well this year, but I’d like to think that I don’t hate anyone new, and I have a lot of new friends to make up for the ones I’ve lost.

26. What was the best book you read?
There was one of the Mary Russell series books that I couldn’t put down for a while, but I’m not sure which it was.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

28. What did you want and get?
Nearly everything! I’m a pretty lucky gal.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
Hmm… that came out in 2013? So I’m apparently a dude, because the following movies had my highest rating of the year: Stoker, Star Trek Into Darkness, Iron Man 3, Pacific Rim, and Europa Report.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 26 in 2013, and celebrated with a few friends in London. It was a Tequila Tuesday! It was fun–memorable, silly, and not at all lonely…

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Humans being good humans, not knowingly doing bad things, or at least not repeatedly doing them once they know they’re bad.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
Layers 4 Lyfe.

33. What kept you sane?
I did! That’s the first time I’ve ever said that.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Benedict Cumberbatch, just like last year!

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
Censorship in the media.

36. Whom did you miss?
Jeff. Mari. My family.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
Hmm… I haven’t met too many new people since moving to Seattle, but I met some awesome folks when rotations happened: Marcel, Scott, Stephen, oh! He was already in the MBA program, but I didn’t really meet Alex until about February. He’s brilliant, and I’m so glad we’ve stayed in touch.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013:
The only thing constant is change: change as in growing older, change as in people coming and going, change as in life circumstances shifting. Get Used To It.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
Everything comes to an end,
But who knows what tomorrow will send,
We must wait for a sign,
And be patient with time,
Until then, we can start again.
– “Start Again,” Two Door Cinema Club

40. What is next year’s horoscope?
TAURUS (April 20-May 20)  ★★★★☆
You enter this year feeling scraggly, worn, wishing for something other than a bad hair day.  The holidays took its toll. That wish will be fulfilled sometime in February.,  The wise bull will not make any major changes for the first two months of the year whether you are looking at a move or deciding on  a new hair color. Your motto for January and February is no change.
In many ways, this year will be a testing  looking back at what was started 14 years ago. You will have choices to make. If all is fine, do not worry, otherwise an adjustment might be necessary. You will feel the effect mainly within relationships.
Use care through May as you will be accident prone. Your mind often will wander to thoughts not relevant to what you are doing. If there is a theme, you might want with that issue., Anger could be involved.
Nevertheless your daily life has an upbeat positive quality. Your style of communications becomes more upscale or more evolved. Others respond to you with ease. Come August, you might make an investment in property, move in with  someone or perhaps if attached, have a new addition.
You will start expressing much joy within your domestic life through the remainder of the year.You end 2014 on a far more content, happy tone than it began on.  You will have a lot to smile about a year from now.

Pop Culture, 2013

Looking back over the past five years of V’s Unique and Distinctive Pop Culture Awards, I’m pleased to see that I seem to be maturing in taste. This year, I’m excited to recognize some of the sprinkles and flavors that made the sundae of 2013 so enjoyable.

See past years: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

movies – books – performances – MUSIC – movies – books – performances

Splendour StudioBest Artist – Two Door Cinema Club

This has been a long time coming–TDCC has been a favorite band of mine for many years now, as evidenced by my past monthly playlists: they first appeared in March of 2011 with “Something Good Can Work,” and again in October of 2012 with “Sleep Alone.” Their sophomore album, Beacon, was a London favorite, and two of their singles were on my 2013 playlist. Basically, they rock.

Bastille_Bad_BloodBest Album Bastille, “Bad Blood”

Could Bastille have had a more kick-ass year? They release Pompeii early in 2013, it sits just under music radar for a few months, and then explodes in late March. By April, it’s remixed, the album is getting tons of play, and everyone in England is buzzing. I still get happy to hear it here in the US, since we’re a bit slow about awesome European music sometimes.

Best Soundtrack/Compilation – Late Night Tales, BonoboLNT_Bonobo_500px

If you haven’t heard of Late Night Tales, and you probably haven’t because I think it’s produced in the UK, you are missing out. They ask artists to guest-mix a playlist of chill music, perfect for a calm night, and pair it with an actor reading a portion of a bedtime story. In the case of Bonobo, this is the third of four parts read by Benedict Cumberbatch, and is a totally mellow, perfect playlist for drifting off.

Best Artist I Should Have Been Hearing Before – Macklemore & Ryan LewisThe_Heist_Macklemore

Yep, I was hiding under a rock in 2012. Or at least, it seems that way when you look at Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ The Heist, which I didn’t even realize had already dropped not only “Thrift Shop” but “Can’t Stop Us” and “Whitewalls” before I picked it up. I live in Seattle now, and I had to get my head in the game. Macklemore gets me there every time: he’s brilliant, well spoken, and incredibly astute. It’s smart rap, refreshingly.

Best Single – “Get Lucky,” Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williamsdaft-punk-get-lucky-pharrell-williams-single-cover-art-nilde-rodgers-random-access-memories-400x400

Don’t even pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about right now. How could you not hear “Get Lucky” literally everywhere this summer? I have distinctly wonderful memories tied to this song, as well as vague and drunken and dancing ones. It is a song that still nearly always makes me smile, and is so catchy that I think it has the kind of staying power to keep feeding memes for years to come.

Playlist of the Year

Typically, the artist with the most songs on the playlist (if any duplicates exist) ends up being the artist of the year, and 2013 is no exception for Two Door Cinema Club. The rest of the playlist is a surprisingly upbeat record of an incredibly emotional and at times very challenging year. As playlists go, I’m pretty proud of this one.Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 11.10.58 PM

books – performances – music – MOVIES – books – performances – music

MV5BMjA2OTk5ODkxMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODc4MDk0OQ@@._V1_SX640_SY720_Best Thriller  – Europa Report

A fascinating and beautiful sci-fi thriller, Europa Report caught my eye because of A) Sharlto Copley and B) the fantastic images from the Cassini spacecraft that were used to construct some of the footage in the movie. The plays to the fear and wonder we all have about exploring outer space, and takes an unconventional, uncomfortable, and masterfully handled “documentary” approach that feels even more authentic. This was one of my highest rated movies from 2013, an 8/10 (there was nothing higher than an 8).

l_1663662_8561742aBest Action – Pacific Rim

I mean really, is there any better candidate for best action in 2013? Think about it: giant monsters, giant robots, shitty marketing, but great and ridiculous scenes that were so massive as to lose scale. Guillermo del Toro didn’t give us a Best Picture nominee (maybe effects, though), but he did give us the perfect summer blockbuster: lots of action, a reasonable amount of character development, a respectable attempt at decent acting, and a ton of visual candy. This movie captured the spirit of air-conditioned, popcorned afternoons from my childhood.

Best Franchise – The Hunger Games: Catching Firecatching-fire-movie-poster

I went into Catching Fire with the lowest of expectations, for two reasons. First, the second book in The Hunger Games series is definitely weaker than the first, and second, the first Hunger Games movie was passable at best. If the first movie based on a book that was stronger than the second is followed by a second movie, it’s logical that said second movie will likely be not as good. I was proven wrong though, as both J.Law and Josh Hutcherson grew into their characters, the director masterfully handled all the material in the book and supplemented necessary missing bits from the first movie, and handed me one of the better adaptations I’ve seen in years.

performance – music – movies – BOOKS – performance – music – movies

91661Best Series – Mary Russell, by Laurie King

I will admit, I started The Beekeeper’s Apprentice in 2012. But, as the first novel of 12 written by Laurie King as a companion/addendum to the world-renowned Sherlock Holmes stories, it took me a little while to get comfortable with them (and to find the time to read during my MBA). After graduation, I breezed through them, engaged with the characters, and eager for more. I’m still working to finish them, but I like to savor the last few stories. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to Mary and Sherlock, especially after such a long relationship.

200px-CuckoosCallingCoverBest NovelThe Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Gilbraith

I refuse to say this book is by J.K. Rowling, even though it is, because I respect her decision to write it under a different name. Each time she writes something, I find myself in a different genre, and this P.I.-mystery story was very unusual for me. As usual, the characters were entrancing, the language spell-binding, and reading took far too brief a time. I loved the language used to describe London, and I loved knowing where the character lived and worked. This book is a testament to my time in London, and I’ll always enjoy re-reading it for that.

Best NonfictionAn Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Col. Chris Hadfield

astronaut-chris-hadfield-book-dealSo I don’t really “do” nonfiction. I never pick up books that are more than marginally based on the past, because usually I read to escape. I did take the time to read An Astronaut’s Guide because I was giving it as a gift to my brother, and had long been following the exciting growth in the popularity of Commander Hadfield since his “winning the internet” (to borrow a popular meme right now). I was so pleased to find this book a combination of self-help, memoir, and nonfiction that kept it genuine and engaging. I wanted to have the drive and passion of Col. Hadfield, and have taken many of the lessons to heart.

music – movies – books – PERFORMANCE – music – movies – books

Best Performance – Daniel Radcliffe in The Cripple of Inishmaan

inishmaanI mean, aside from the fact that it’s Daniel Radcliffe, the physicality of this performance was truly amazing–even from my nosebleed section seats, I could see how hard he was working on stage, and can only imagine how challenging it was to do multiple shows per day. The show itself was a rollercoaster: pleasant then disturbing then joyful then depressing, and incredibly well-written (also a bit tough to understand, which is a testament to the actors accents). I was glad to get tickets for this short run show, to see a bit more of this “English” “humor” thing I keep hearing about, and see Mr. Radcliffe in his natural habitat.

the-book-of-mormon-poster-01Best ComedyThe Book of Mormon

If you can see The Book of Mormon, by goodness see The Book of Mormon! Can it get any better than a tongue-in-cheek, yet alarmingly accurate social commentary that’s so funny you can’t help but enjoy yourself and sing along? This was hands down one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen, and while expensive to see in the West End, a very welcome birthday present. I still find myself thinking about the lessons it taught, the color and vitality it instilled, and the great insight into humankind that it gives in just a few short hours. For guys who get a rap for South Park, this is a home run.